ACLU To Feds: Release 10-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy Or We’ll Sue
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Refugee Resettlement if they do not release a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy from a San Antonio detention center by Tuesday afternoon.
Border Patrol agents under CBP apprehended Rosa Maria Hernandez of Laredo, Texas at a Border Patrol checkpoint in an ambulance on her way to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi for gallbladder surgery last week.
After the surgery, the agents escorted her to the Baptist Children’s Home Ministries shelter in San Antonio run by the ORR. The ORR is an office of the Administration for Children and Families within Health and Human Services that handles children apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security.
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Hernandez — whose mother is undocumented, but whose grandfather is a legal resident — has been detained there for deportation proceedings.
If ORR and CBP do not release the girl to her parents and drop deportation proceedings by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, “we will take immediate legal action and pursue all available remedies under the law to secure Rosa Maria’s release,” the ACLU letter reads.
“The Trump administration has reached a new low,” said Andre Segura, ACLU of Texas legal director, in a statement. “Rosa Maria is being held unlawfully by the federal government. She needs to be with her with her mother, not alone and confined in a government facility.”
U.S. Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, also sent a letter to DHS Secretary Elaine Duke on Tuesday morning calling for the girl’s release.
“This can’t be who we’ve become,” O’Rourke said in an accompanying statement. “Forcing a child to choose between lifesaving surgery or deportation is sickening, wrong, un-American by all measures.”
“No child should have to endure what she is experiencing,” Castro said. “The Trump administration needs to focus its resources on targeting dangerous criminals, not ill children. The president’s callous immigration policies continue to reach new, inhumane lows.”
An ACF spokeswoman declined to comment on the potential lawsuit, citing the department’s policy not to identify specific children. She stressed that ORR policies to keep children safe depend on processing qualified custody sponsors, and that ORR facilitates and funds health care for all children in its custody.
CBP did not respond to requests for comment.
Michael Tan, the ACLU staff attorney who signed the letter along with Segura, told The Dallas Morning News that ORR had no basis to detain Hernandez because it can only house unaccompanied children, often crossing the border alone, until they can be connected with a sponsor inside the United States.
“She has a loving family that is here in the country and is ready to provide for her care as they have since she was born,” Tan said, citing the fact that her family brought her to the United States when she was three months old and has effectively cared for her special needs ever since.
“The government has no authority to lock her up and separate her from that family,” he added. “The only reason she has been labeled unaccompanied is because the Border Patrol arrested her and transferred her away from the custody of her family, and that’s not how our immigration laws work.”
On Monday, Tan said that the team hoped to speak with attorneys from the Department of Justice, but they had no scheduled meetings.
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